Fervency in Prayer

Fervency in Prayer

By Erin Bird

Last week, I kicked off a three-week series on prayer. Our first “F” was “Frequency in Prayer.” (If you missed it, catch up on the Riverwood blog.) This week, we continue the series with “Fervency in Prayer.”The dictionary defines fervent as “having or displaying a passionate intensity.” This definition makes us think of sports fans, or protestors, or even a demanding child. But prayer?

Some of you grew up in (or at least were exposed to) church traditions where prayer was very solemn and subdued. After all, when praying to God, these church traditions taught us to be respectful to the Almighty. So our prayers were said with meekness, calmness, or even a “ritual-ness.” To be “passionate” in prayer, therefore, almost feels irreverent.

But an honest read through the book of Psalms reveals a type of prayer that could only be described as passionate. Take Psalm 42 for instance. The authors (the Korahites) express a deep longing for God. We see them openly share about their depression. We see them cry out to God for help. Psalm 42 is not a calm prayer. It is filled with emotion. The authors are very passionate (dare I say “fervent”) in their prayer.

But Psalm 42 is not the only example.

  • We see the Israelite people in Exodus 15 passionately sing a prayer of thanks to God after rescuing them from their Egyptian pursuers by bringing them through the Red Sea.
  • We see the same nation of Israel cry out intensely in prayer as they realize their sin in Ezra 10,
  • And we even see Jesus Himself fervently pray in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He is arrested, tried, and crucified.

In other words, it’s okay for you to bring your full self into prayer, to passionately lay before God your joys, your worries, your short-comings, your desires, or whatever is close to your heart. You do not need to manufacture emotion for God, as He is not swayed by fake intensity. But you also do not need to mute or minimize your emotion either. God simply wants your authentic self.

So it’s okay to be fervent in prayer. Let biblical precedent guide you into being open and honest with the God who loves you and wired you with emotion.

Heavenly Father, help me to be authentic before you, for nothing is hidden from you. You wired me with personality and emotion, so help me to bring my full self into your presence. Help me not to pretend with you, but rather to bring a passionate intensity to my times in prayer with you, for I have nothing without you.

In Christ I pray,
Amen

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Erin Bird

We interrupt our current Advent Conspiracy series (again), to simply wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Take some time today to thank God for Jesus, for His love, and for whatever else comes to your mind and heart. And if you can’t think of what to thank God for, look around, look back, and look deeper. (If that doesn’t make sense, listen to last Sunday’s sermon.)

But on this Thanksgiving holiday, I want to encourage you to do one more thing. I want you to “give thanks” by telling someone “thank you.” It might be a parent for all he or she has done for you. It might be a mentor who invested in you. It might be your spouse for helping you. It might be a co-worker or classmate who served you. It might be a neighbor or anyone that God places on your heart.

As important as it is to “give thanks [to God] in all circumstances,” it is equally important to “give thanks” to those God has used in your life. So shoot someone a text, or email, or even a phone call today just to say “Thank You!”

Assured by the Gospel

Assured by the Gospel

Back to our Gospel Facets series…

Longing for Peace
I was really surprised at just how nervous I was. I was in a hotel room in Minneapolis on the final day of a church planting assessment center. As LeAnn and I sat in the hotel room, the “assessors” were back at the church building where they had been assessing all of the church planting candidates for the past three days. These assessors were planning to talk late into the night about each candidate and his/her spouse and whether or not they were going to recommend each of us for church planting.

I knew God had called me to plant a church. I had already spent two years praying about it, then spent a year fundraising. I also spent a year in Kansas City working at a church to learn more about church planting. And LeAnn and I had already selected Waverly, Iowa as the location where we felt God calling us to plant.

And yet, I was still nervous that a group of men and women might render a verdict of “no” to my calling of church planting after all I had been through.

Ever been there? It probably wasn’t at a church planting assessment center, but perhaps you were nervous that she might say no to your marriage proposal, or nervous that he wouldn’t call back after the first date, or nervous that someone else was going to get the job.

If you are like me, you didn’t revel in that nervous feeling. (Anxiousness isn’t exactly an emotion I enjoy!) In the midst of your nervousness, what you longed for was peace.

Peace in the Gospel
I think humans around the globe and throughout time have longed for peace not just in their careers, or marriages, or spiritual callings. I think we also have a spiritual longing for peace.

But so many humans don’t have peace about their spiritual standing before the Divine. They know they have done some bad things in life,  so they seek to make it up to God through good works.

But there is a problem with building a relationship with God based upon your efforts to do right. The problem is how do you know when you have done enough good to offset your bad?

  • Is helping the little old lady across the street enough?
  • Or do you also have to give 10% of your income?
  • Or is 10% not enough – do you have to give 50%?
  • And is it okay to only read the Bible two or three times each week, or does it have to be everyday?
  • How good is good enough?

If this is your mindset, I have some bad news for you. Nothing you can do will repay the spiritual debt you owe God. The debt of your sin is death. So you can help thousands of little old ladies safely cross a busy intersection, but that won’t pay off your death penalty.

But there is some good news in all of this. While YOU can’t find peace with God through your good works, Jesus did the one and only good work that could pay off your spiritual debt. Jesus died on the cross in your place, fulfilling the demand for justice. Even though He had never sinned, Jesus died in the sinner’s place, so that sinner’s could be freed and made into saints.

This is the gospel! And this truth should bring you peace, giving you an assurance of God’s love for you and His ability to remove your sin.

So if you find yourself questioning whether or not God loves you, look to the cross and empty tomb to find peace! Be assured that when you placed your faith in Jesus, He was able and just to forgive you of your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.

The Exchange of the Gospel

The Exchange of the Gospel

By Erin Bird

Ever heard of the game “Bigger and Better?” Typically, the game involves sending a group of people out door-to-door to attempt to trade something small for something bigger and better. In our first year of marriage, LeAnn and I had a group of kids from our church’s youth group stop by our condo, and we ended up giving them our broken down turn-table stereo system (I forget the “small” thing we got in exchange).

Several years ago, I heard a TED Talk from a guy who played “Bigger and Better,” but rather than play it by going door to door, he basically played the game through the Internet utilizing Craigslist, Reddit, and the media. His experience with the game started with a red paper clip but eventually turned into a house.

In that TED Talk, there comes a moment where Kyle (the speaker) shares about one trade that seems like an ludicrously bad trade. He traded away concert tickets and a day with a rock star for a snow globe.

Yes, a snow globe.

(Just a heads up: if you go watch that TED Talk, there is some mild language.)

Now, I won’t go into all the details, but I will point out that the snow globe ended up being the very thing that made way for him to get the house. It wasn’t a direct trade, but without the snow globe, Kyle doesn’t get the house.

The Great-yet-Bad Exchange
Kyle’s “Bigger & Better” game illustrates an important facet found within the gospel. Second Corinthians 5:21 says,

“For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

Take a moment to think about that verse. God the Father placed all of our sin upon Jesus, the only man to have ever lived without sin, so that the wrath of God could come against sin (rather than come upon us, the sin-doers.) And yet, while Jesus took our sin, He gave us His righteousness.

Talk about a bad trade for Jesus! He gives us His right standing before the Father while taking upon Himself the sin that kept us from God.

This is the Great Exchange. Our sin for His righteousness. That’s a far worse trade than a snow globe for concert tickets and back-stage passes.

And yet, Jesus gladly made the trade. His love for you so overwhelmed Him, He was willing to take your sin upon Himself so that sin could be defeated through the cross. And by doing so, He could then give you His righteousness so that you could come back into a relationship with the Most High And Holy God.

And what did Jesus get out of the whole deal? He got you! It broke the heart of God to have you stolen away by sin, so Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate cost to have you back.

I will admit I have days where this powerful truth barely phases me. I’ve been following Jesus since I was 4-years-old and unfortunately have allowed this facet to become  somewhat commonplace in my thinking.

If you are like me, may this truth shake us out of our spiritual slumber. May we stop and be overwhelmed by God’s love for us. May we marvel at the willingness of Jesus to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. And may we be humbled by this Great Exchange.

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